Prey (video game)
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|Developer(s)||Human Head Studios
3D Realms (producer)
Venom Games (Xbox 360 port)
Aspyr Media (Mac port)
|Composer(s)||Jeremy Soule (lead)|
|Engine||id Tech 4 (modified)|
|Release date(s)||Windows, Xbox 360
Prey is a first-person shooter video game developed by Human Head Studios, under contract for 3D Realms, and published by 2K Games, while the Xbox 360 version was ported by Venom Games. The game was initially released in North America and Europe on 11 July 2006. Prey uses a heavily modified version of id Tech 4 to use portals and variable gravity to create the environments the player explores.
The game's story is focused on Cherokee Domasi "Tommy" Tawodi as he, his girlfriend, and grandfather are abducted aboard an alien spaceship known as The Sphere as it consumes material, both inanimate and living, from Earth in order to sustain itself. Tommy's Cherokee past allows him to let his spirit roam freely at times, and gives Tommy an edge in his attempt to stop the Sphere.
Prey had been in development in one form or another since 1995, and has had several major revisions. While the general approach to gameplay, including the use of portals, remained in the game, the story and setting changed several times. The game received generally positive reviews and was a commercial success, selling more than one million copies in the first two months of its release and leading to the development of a sequel, with rights owned by the Radar Group. The rights were recently transferred to Bethesda Softworks and Id Software parent company ZeniMax Media.
The story focuses on Domasi Tawodi (also known as "Tommy"), a Cherokee garage mechanic and former U.S. Army soldier living on a Native American reservation in Oklahoma. At the beginning of the game, Tommy is in a bar owned by his girlfriend, Jen. Tommy is tired of living on the reservation, and constantly tries to push his heritage away, while at the same time trying to convince Jen to leave home, if only for a short while, to which she refuses steadfastly. After an unfortunate bar fight, the entire building is lifted up by a gravitational force into a green light above. Tommy, Jen, and Tommy's grandfather, Enisi, are transported skyward to the massive alien starship called the Sphere. After docking, all three, along with countless other captives, are dragged through the upper levels of the Sphere. Tommy is freed in an explosion set off by a stranger who, despite being cybernetic like most of the Sphere's denizens, appears to be working against it rather than for it.
Tommy witnesses Enisi's death in a brutal alien device. While trying to find Jen, he falls from a walkway and has a near-death experience to The Land of The Ancients where he meets with his grandfather's spirit who bestows him with spiritual powers. After returning to the world of the living, Tommy gains the ability to spirit-walk, allowing him to separate from his body to pass through forcefields and operate consoles normally out of reach, as well as the aid of his spirit guide, the ghost of his childhood pet hawk, named Talon. Despite being entrusted by his ancestor's spirits with the mission to protect all of mankind from the sphere's invasion, Tommy cannot stop worrying about Jen, and he only cares about how to find and rescue her. As the game's tagline says, "Earth's savior doesn't want the job."
The Sphere is an organic alien ship. It has a small, concentrated star at its core, which is used to support itself and all life inside it. The origin of the Sphere is unclear, but its main goal is to maintain itself. It travels the galaxy searching for various alien races to maintain it. It also uses these races as food to provide much needed extra energy to sustain the Sphere and its star. The Sphere is fused with cybernetic enhancements, and has the power to manipulate gravity inside of itself and alter space (as demonstrated in the maze puzzle and in the numerous small storage boxes that, when entered, lead to entire rooms). Various walkways allow the occupants to walk on surfaces otherwise designated as walls and ceilings. Switches that change the direction of gravity, effectively changing the orientation of anyone in the area, are present in some locations, causing floors, walls, and ceilings to change their roles depending on the switch used. The Sphere also has the ability to produce portals to other sections at will. These portals allow occupants to move much faster around the Sphere and fulfill their duties more efficiently.
The Sphere houses many different alien races that were taken by the Sphere from other worlds. Most of them are cybernetically enhanced, and have a language of their own, unreadable until Tommy obtains Talon and their language is translated to English.
It is implied along the game that the Keepers of the Sphere, who act as the leaders of the other races, plant the seed of life in certain worlds that they see have the potential to sustain such life. Once the seed is planted, they let evolution run its course while they go to other worlds. However, once the planet is brimming with life, be it intelligent or not, they come back to "reap" all resources, both organic and material from the planet.
Multiple species may be consumed as more energy for the Sphere. The only group of beings aboard the Sphere who live relatively freely are a small band of humans who call themselves the Hidden. The members of the Hidden, individually known as "Hiders", are slightly enhanced with cybernetics, but nowhere near the extent of the other beings on the Sphere, and have not lost their individuality. Led by a seemingly young woman named Elhuit, the Hidden strive to ultimately destroy the Sphere, though what they want most is to return to Earth, where they were taken from many years ago.
The Sphere is controlled by a superior being called "The Mother" who communicates telepathically with Tommy throughout the game. She reveals to Tommy that she was once human. She too once fought against the previous "Mother" of the Sphere and after defeating it, she took its place. At the end, after a very turbulent fight, Mother is defeated and, in her death throes, begs Tommy to take over her job, lest the entire Sphere die. As she dies, a burst of light engulfs Tommy and when vision is restored, Tommy finds himself inside the Mother's den with reams of data overwhelming him, making him numb with power. His grandfather, Enisi, contacts him from the spirit realm and tells him that such power is only an illusion, as the price is greater than what he has gained, and that he needs to look in his heart and make the right decision. Tommy heeds his grandfather's words and drives the Sphere straight into the Sun, and ends up in the land of the ancients to see Enisi and Jen once more. Knowing that when it is his time he will see them both again, Tommy goes back to Earth.
Six months later, Tommy finds himself in a rebuilt Roadhouse, apparently not yet open to the public. The official story is that people, buildings and objects vanished because of an unknown, unexplained natural phenomenon. He turns around and sees Elhuit. She and the surviving Hiders had escaped through their own portal machine just before Tommy plunged the Sphere into the sun. She tells him that while people on Earth do not know of the great deed he has done, there are those "elsewhere" who have taken notice and want to meet him. Elhuit opens up a portal and Tommy walks through it. The words "Prey will continue..." appear.
Prey is a first-person shooter with the player in control of Tommy as he explores the Sphere and fights the inhabitants aboard the craft. During the game, the player will collect a number of alien weapons, some comparable to typical first-person shooter archetypes, others more alien in behavior.
The game's engine introduces two unique aspects to exploration. Portals in the game can transport the player from one area to another instantly; portals can be looked and shot through as well (introducing the very real hazard of shooting oneself by mistake), and can also be traveled in reverse. Unlike the later game Portal, the player cannot create portals directly without the use of mods, and portals remain fixed in space. The game also features variable gravity. Special paths allow the player to walk along them, remaining upright regardless of orientation, though should the player fall or voluntarily jump off the path, gravity will reassert itself. Small planetoids inside The Sphere can also exhibit their own gravity fields, allowing the player to walk completely around the outside of it.
The player can detach Tommy's spirit from his body, allowing the spirit to roam freely for a short time. The spirit has limited interaction with the environment, though it is able to activate control panels and can use a spirit bow to strike at foes. The spirit force is often used to solve environmental puzzles within the game as well as to locate paths that are not visible to mortal eyes.
Prey has a long and storied development history that spans over a decade, starting in 1995. Since then it went through several iterations of the game design and software technology before its eventual release in 2006.
In 1995, the first incarnation of the game was announced. Prey was envisioned by 3D Realms as the first of a number of games to be running on unique, cutting edge game engine technology, developed in house. In this sense the project played the same role as Unreal did for Epic Games, and it would retain this role in the company's strategy throughout its development time in the 3D Realms studios.
Prey as a game was to go through many different forms during this first development period. A rapid succession of different designs was outlined by Tom Hall (previously of id Software and later of Ion Storm), who was at that time fresh off the Rise of the Triad team at Apogee Software. After about a year's worth of work, however, Tom Hall abandoned the project and left the company to form Ion Storm with ex-Id compatriot John Romero. At this point 3D Realms brought on Paul Schuytema to begin the next phase in the game's development.
The new team would go on to create the most coherent design the game ever had. The alien abduction theme from Hall's work was retained, but now the game was to be set on a massive, living alien space ship inhabited by a number of different alien races (three of them collectively known as the "Trocara" and a fourth called the "Keepers"), the player himself would take the role of a Native American hero, called Talon Brave.
The game was the first in the genre to make use of moveable portal technology, a feature that allowed rips in space to be created, moved and reshaped in real time. This was to be a core feature of the gameplay, along with heavily destructible environments. It was also thought at the time this engine would be used for Duke Nukem 5 (the game after Duke Nukem Forever). Demonstrations of these features drew widespread acclaim at the 1997 and 1998 E3 exhibitions – the television program Infinite MHz was able to capture exclusive footage of the game's private behind-closed-doors demo at both of the game's E3 showings.
The public perception was very positive, the game looked impressive, and 3D Realms' name, fresh from the success of Duke Nukem 3D was a mark of quality. Furthermore, German industrial band KMFDM was to create the game's soundtrack. 3D Realms posted on their website in 1997 that they received a sample of the soundtrack from KMFDM and highly praised the music, described as "ambient industrial". On December 19, 1997, 3D Realms also released two KMFDM songs in MP3 format (that are not on the Prey soundtrack), "Inane" and "Megalomaniac".
However, despite the best of starts, Prey's development was troubled. Seemingly insurmountable technical problems ground development to a near-halt, and this version of Prey too fell apart. Later, on an Internet discussion board head engineer William Scarboro would comment that "In hindsight, portal tricks such as these should be used as tricks, not as an engine paradigm."
Shortly after the Schuytema variant of Prey disbanded, 3D Realms attempted again to revive the project by bringing on tech programmer Corrinne Yu in November 1998. Development of the game itself was not part of this effort, Yu was working by herself on the game engine exclusively. However, after a time, this iteration of Prey fell apart as well. 3D Realms and Corrinne Yu parted ways, and Prey began its long period of inactivity in 1999. The title was put on indefinite hold (although never formally canceled, contrary to popular opinion).
On March 8, 2000, Prey.net (an early Prey site with a section about KMFDM) released a RealAudio file of a third KMFDM song: "Missing Time", which was going to be part of the Prey soundtrack but was featured in the film Heavy Metal 2000 instead (under the name MDFMK which is a side project of KMFDM members during their temporary break-up).
In 2001, 3D Realms began development on a new version of the title. This time, with the advantage of the necessary portal technology already being a stable and functional component of all modern game engines, 3D Realms was able to license the necessary technology instead of having to develop it. 3D Realms chose the id Tech 4 game engine from id Software, and Rune developer Human Head Studios was commissioned to develop the game using the previous designs as a base.
Rumors of this new project leaked out to the public in 2002, through the website Evil Avatar, but were at that time denied in the 3DRealms forums by Joe Siegler. It was not until 2005, when the cryptic clue "Keep your eyes open for the unveiling of our next game very soon." appeared on the 3D Realms website that the previous rumors were confirmed in any way. This was followed by a CNN article by Chris Morris, claiming that Prey was not only in development, but that it would be shown at E3.
Soon afterwards, the official Prey teaser site was launched, confirming the game's existence, and hinting that more would be revealed in the June issue of PC Gamer, which indeed featured a seven page article on Prey.
On April 28, 2006, a July 10, 2006 release date was announced (although 3D Realms claims that is not the formal release date since it did not come from them or Human Head). On May 19, 2006, 3D Realms announced that a demo of Prey would be released on June 22, 2006—the PC demo was released on this date, but the Xbox 360 demo was delayed until June 30, 2006. On June 28, 2006, it was announced that Prey had officially gone gold.
A playable single and multiplayer demo of the game was released on June 22, 2006, for Microsoft Windows, and a downloadable Xbox 360 demo was released on the Xbox Live Marketplace on June 30, 2006. The game went gold on June 28, 2006, and was released in North America on July 11, 2006, and on July 14, 2006, in Europe.
On October 24, 2008, a Linux client for the Prey demo was released by Ryan "icculus" Gordon, who had been working on porting the game for several months. Later that year, on December 7, 2008, the Linux client for the full retail version was made available.
The June 2005 issue of PC Gamer revealed that the game uses a heavily modified version of id Tech 4 capable of rendering "huge cavernous spaces as well as more traditional passages". The game also supports the dynamic portals that were seen in the 1997/1998 video clips, which are used by friends and foes alike.
The game also has the ability to change gravity in many parts of the game, via small items that need to be shot to become active, which is used to solve many puzzles throughout the game. Also, various landscapes in the game (large rocks, for example) have their own gravity that overrides the normal gravity in the game.
Two vehicles make an appearance; one is a flying vehicle used frequently for travel and attacking (as well as puzzle solving), and one is only used for a short period near the end of the game.
The bar that the game begins in is very interactive, utilizing usable restroom facilities, a TV with various channels (including a clip from Duck and Cover), a fully playable Pac-Man-style game called Rune Man (referring to a previous game by Human Head entitled Rune), several video casino machines (including blackjack, draw poker, and a slot machine), and a jukebox that plays a small selection of licensed songs (see Soundtrack).
Prey was the only major title to utilize the new Triton distribution system, which went out of business mere months after the game's launch. Following the demise of Triton, Prey moved to distribution via Steam.
Domasi (Tommy) Tawodi's background was chosen due to the amount of mythology in Cherokee oral tradition, which 3D Realms aims to use for a number of games. When it was first revealed that the game's protagonist would be a Native American, the response was mixed due to concerns that he would be a stereotyped caricature, and that players would have difficulty identifying with a Native American character. Tommy is voiced by Michael Greyeyes, and Jen is voiced by Crystle Lightning, who are both Plains Cree. Greyeyes approved of the way that Tommy was depicted in the game, contrasting Prey to a film production:
I was impressed with the way [3D Realms] conceived of and wrote Tommy... Hollywood typically relegates our different indigenous cultures either into a single pan-Indian construct of some type — radical AIM protester type; slick, corporate, anglicized casino businessman type; etcetera — or, most commonly, as a historical figure, typically from a Plains culture. In fact, the overwhelming majority of roles written for native actors are in the Western genre. There are few opportunities for us to appear outside that paradigm, and when we do it is often equally narrow in focus... The writers [at 3D Realms] were always open to my comments — which I freely offered — and took my notes seriously, in nearly all instances changing dialogue or thematic content.—
Prey also shipped in a Limited Collector's Edition for both PC and Xbox 360. The following comes in the package:
- An embossed collector's tin
- An upgrade to one DVD-ROM (as opposed to three CD-ROMs)
- Two pewter figurines (Hunter and Tommy)
- The Art of Prey booklet
- A free soundtrack download from DirectSong
A third (Mutate) pewter figurine was available separately for purchase to complete the collection of 3 pewter figurines.
The soundtrack was composed by award-winning composer Jeremy Soule and his brother, Julian Soule. The Prey soundtrack was released in two volumes (nearly 2 hours of the game's 3-hour score). The end credits feature the song "Take Me Home" by After Midnight Project.
There are several jukeboxes in the game which allow the player to choose from a small selection of licensed songs. The full selection of songs is, in the order they are arranged:
- "Free Ride" by The Edgar Winter Group (Album: They Only Come Out At Night)
- "Barracuda" by Heart (Album: Little Queen)
- "You've Got Another Thing Comin'" by Judas Priest (Album: The Best Of Judas Priest: Living After Midnight)
- "Cat Scratch Fever" by Ted Nugent (Album: Cat Scratch Fever)
- "If We Could Be" by Railer (Album: Frame Of Mind)
- "Deaf Girlfriend" by Scotch Greens (Album: Professional)
- "Settle Up" by Seven Mary Three (Album: Dis/Location)
- "Machine Sex" by Sheep on Drugs (Album: F**K)
- "Anthem for Tonight" by Halifax (Album: The Inevitability Of A Strange World)
- "Human Resources" by The Countdown (Album Cover: Advance E.P. - Actual Album: Scratch & Sniff [under 'Human Resources (Radio 4 Remix)'])
- "Forever Dead" by Soil (Album: True Self)
- "10001110101" by Clutch (Album: Robot Hive/Exodus)
- "The Setting Sun" by MxPx (commissioned specifically for the game)
- "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" by Blue Öyster Cult (Album: Don't Fear The Reaper: The Best Of Blue Öyster Cult). This song cannot be chosen normally, but plays on the jukebox during the alien invasion in the same level.
In addition, radio host Art Bell lends his voice to several fictional segments of his paranormal-themed radio show, Coast to Coast AM, that play from radios throughout the game. In the segments, he talks with many callers about the various alien phenomena that occur in the game.
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Prey has a respective average of 83 and 79 on the PC and Xbox 360. Prey was highly praised for its graphics and gameplay. Gamezone called the graphics "top notch", while Play Magazine called them "incredible". GamerFeed lauded the gameplay of Prey, calling it "nothing short of amazing", and concluding that "Prey has got everything anyone could want from a sci-fi shooter and more". However, there was criticism directed at the multiplayer component, especially the fact that it only had two game modes. GamesRadar said that the multiplayer "could have been much better if only there were more than two modes [and] a couple of maps small enough to play with less than five players".
Prey is ranked third on Game Informer's list of The Top 10 Video Game Openings.
Shortly after the game's release, 3D Realms' Scott Miller confirmed that a sequel named Prey 2 was already in development. On March 17, 2008, Miller's brand-management group Radar Group was officially launched, along with the announcement that it is managing Prey 2, slated for the PC and Xbox 360. The game is being developed in cooperation with Human Head Studios.
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